Friday, August 24, 2007


Long Shorts And Natural Fibers Enhance Summer Apparel

Last week marked the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and the unofficial start of the shorts season. This irony plays out in the longer length shorts are taking this summer. Owing to the influence of men’s wear on women’s apparel and a natural seasonal preference for breathable fabrics, expect to see mid-length shorts of natural fibers like cotton on the street, in the gym and even the office.

“We have always carried shorts, as they are extremely popular with our customers, and this season is certainly no exception,” says Lauren Cooke, public relations manager with retailer J. Jill. “This summer, it’s all about the Bermuda cut, or the longer length in shorts.”

Louise Wannier, chief executive officer of MyShape, an online apparel retailer that matches clothing to a woman’s measurements, body shape and preferences, agrees. “The longer short works for just about every woman and every shape.” She confides, “In terms of shopping, summer has just started for women and longer shorts are doing really well."

The adaptability of long shorts to multiple body shapes is echoed by Tracy Wilkinson, founder of Mon Petit Oiseau, a West Coast based independent label. “I think the longer short covers all body types.” Wilkinson adds, “This summer is a great time to wear a short; there is something for everyone.”

The variety and adaptability of this season’s long shorts may gain traction among female consumers, many of whom express frustration when shopping for apparel; 56 percent of female respondents told the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™ that they encountered difficulty finding clothing that flattered their shapes.

“It comes down to creating a balance between the top and bottom; pick the cut of the garment to best provide proportion for your shape,” fit expert Wannier explains. “Keeping body proportion in mind is more important than any other aspect of dressing.”

Eva Brune, a trend analyst with forecasting firm Fashion Snoops, concedes that the long short trend for women has its genesis in men’s wear but offers a decidedly feminine silhouette. “You have the Bermuda, which is a wider cut, a cuffed men’s wearinspired short and an above-the-knee pedal pusher that wears just like a pencil skirt.”

The variety of silhouettes and fabrications create multiple wearing opportunities for long shorts. “The longer short is a really nice way to dress for the summer and it offers a great alternative to the skirt,” says Julie Chaiken, chief executive officer and founder of Chaiken, a ready-to-wear collection sold at Nordstrom’s and Bloomingdales. “Think of it as a new, crisp way to approach summer dressing.”

Editor Sabrina Yeung, of the virtual fashion community Stylehive, envisions long shorts as even ideal for the workplace. “We’re seeing more office appropriate long shorts with tailored materials and fit; just pair them with a blousy top and good accessories and it can look really polished.” Yeung adds, “To add even more of a business look, add a fitted blazer.”

“The short is definitely giving new options to suiting,” adds Brune, the analyst. “Depending on your taste and end use, you can pair it with a jacket and wear it as a suit to work, particularly in more creative environments.”

To keep the short-andjacket look professional, solids are clearly preferable to prints. “Offering the longer short in a basic color gives it more utility so that women can wear it more places,” says Chaiken, the designer. She notes that the most popular colors in her collection are black, khaki and chocolate.

“Fabric considerations are important, too,” says J. Jill’s Cooke. “We offer Bermudas in cotton, linen and denim and they all easily afford that transition from day to night.” Breathable fabric choices are key to summer comfort and also resonate with today’s female consumers; over 55 percent of women told the Monitor they would pay more for garments made of natural fibers such as cotton.

The longer short trend also extends to the gym, observes Rupa Mehta, founder of Nalini Method, an exercise studio on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “All of my clients wear longer and looser shorts to work out and, because my classes are low impact, they just change from sneakers to sandals and go on to the next activity, like lunch, shopping or work.” This versatility speaks directly to the twothirds of women who told the Monitor that they prefer to get dressed just once for all the activities they pursue throughout the day.

For those wondering how long a long short should be, J. Jill’s Cooke advises to look to the knee. “It depends on your interpretation, but for the most part, mid-leg is the divide,” she shares. “In terms of the short, we offer three cuts above the knee, with 14, 12 and 11 inch inseams; although the longest, at 14 inches, appears to be the sweet spot for the Bermuda short right now. That’s generally just half an inch above the knee.”

Although the longest day of the year is a recent memory, the long shorts of summer will be prevalent through to the fall. Their versatility in form, function and fabrication will make short work of fashion decisions for what is shaping up to be a long, hot summer.

This story is one in a series of articles based on findings from Cotton Incorporated’s Lifestyle Monitor™ tracking research. Each story will focus on a specific topic as it relates to the American women’s wear consumer and her attitudes and behavior regarding clothing, appearance, fashion, fiber selection and many other timely, relevant subjects.